21 club

Many of my blog entries lately have been lists. Well, it’s summer, and attention spans are shorter; no one wants to read an essay on why I think high schools should expand sex education beyond abstinence. (Actually, only about four of you probably did the first time.)

Plus, today my friend Jon celebrates his 21st birthday and his parents asked friends and family to share a word of encouragement, favorite scripture, or life lesson to mark the occasion.

Presumptuously, I decided to send 21 lessons, because Jon is one of the few people in my life a) easygoing enough to appreciate piles of unsolicited advice and b) young enough to possibly think I might have some wisdom worth sharing.

But I’m not alone—I’m sure you have some good advice for this young man, too, so add what I’ve missed. The happy birthday email I just sent him directs him here to read the full list, so he’ll see your comments, too. And I’ll come up with something non-listy for next time.

21 things to remember as you turn 21:

1. Once in a great while, you get better results from being so assertive you’re almost rude. (A recent phone conversation with Comcast, i.e. the worst company on the planet, comes to mind.) 98% of the time kindness is the way to go.

2. It’s okay to skip over the long census lists when reading Numbers.

3. The person who talks the loudest isn’t always the person who’s right.

4. Elisabeth Elliot’s father taught his sons to only say “I love you” to a woman if prepared to follow it up with “Will you marry me?” This may not be an entirely practical idea today, but the principle is still good: do not mislead a girl, and don’t give her 100% of your heart until you’ve made a lifetime commitment to her.

5. Ditto on giving her 100% of your body.

6. Ask if the cat constantly pukes before you adopt it.

7. Learn the difference between their/there/they’re and its/it’s. Sadly, if you use these words correctly you’ll seem more professional and better educated than 75% of the population.

8. Find at least three vegetables you like and eat two of them every day. It’s okay if cheese is involved. Corn and potatoes don’t count.

9. Some people will be your friend for just a phase or a season, and a few will be your friend your whole life. Both groups are valuable, but be sure to take care of the lifers.

10. When you get the chance to travel somewhere, anywhere, take it.

11. You cannot change people. The best you can do is change how you respond to them or how you let them affect you.

12. Be nice to the waiter. Tip well.

13. If you get stranded in Ft. Wayne, IN two days before Christmas in the biggest snowstorm to hit the east coast in ten years, and the little dude with a scraggly mustache informs you your luggage didn’t make it, remember #1 and insist on viewing the collected baggage to make sure. It will be there.

14. Do not use your credit card as an emergency fund, and balance your checkbook every month.

15. Wear sunscreen.

16. It’s not only ethical to be honest, it’s also easier. You don’t have to keep your stories straight, and you can handle small issues before they become ginormous.

17. In all the Michael Jackson hoopla, I re-watched his 1983 performance of “Billie Jean.” As tragic as the rest of his life became, those 4 1/2 minutes are inspiring; he was born to sing and dance. St. Irenaeus said that the glory of God is man fully alive. Discover what makes you fully alive and then spend your life pursuing it.

18. Worries seem bigger and scarier at night. Get some sleep and come back to it in the morning.

19. Regularly spend time with four year olds.

20. Some things we find really fun aren’t worth our time, and some things worth our time are completely not fun. Do the important stuff whether it’s fun or not.

21. Just because you’re now old enough to drink legally doesn’t mean you’re old enough to drink too much. Moderation in all things, my friend (even vegetables).

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